July 09, 2007

No Aircraft Were Hurt In The Making Of This Film

I finally got to see "One Six Right" on DVD the other day. As the Wikipedia entry says,
One Six Right is an independent film about the general aviation industry as seen through a local airport. Within a short period of time, it has achieved a cult-like following and presence among pilots and aviation enthusiasts worldwide who see the film as being able to communicate their passion for aviation. Concurrently, the film has garnered both local and national political attention in the United States as an accurate depiction of general aviation and its important contributions to all aviation industries worldwide.
OK, I guess I'm going to be a dissenter here. Well, not radically, but in my own muddled way. Firstly, yes, I enjoyed the film a lot, especially the "pilot porn" bits (you know, all the beautiful flying, the smooth glossy warbirds and bizjets, the aerobatics — all that and more) and the pure history stuff (I'm a big fan of local history, and when, in cases like this, local and national (or even global) history merge in one location, it's a real joy to connect the dots and just watch the story unfold). I really didn't enjoy the intrusive and rather-too-sentimental (or perhaps a bit unimaginative) soundtrack, but that's just a detail. Looked at purely as an independent human-interest and local history documentary about an important GA airport, it gets top marks, and I would have been even happier had it gone on longer, with more history, and more personal stories. These things fascinate me, and it's an obvious labor of love by the filmmakers.

But I doubt that it'll convince too many people out there that GA is important or more than toys-for-the-boys or a rich guy's or old geezer's pursuit. Perhaps "show, don't tell" might have been a better approach here: rather than just stating that lots of economic and social advantages come from having something as big and noisy as Van Nuys airport in the middle of the Valley, it might have been better to do some actual tracing of day-to-day work and activities. For example, follow a mercy flight, or a medevac helicopter's daily routine, or a small freight operation, or a flight school… show the money coming in, show the business accruing to the neighbourhood, show how the airport is such a part of the city's lifeline. And rather than concentrating a little too much on the more glamourous aircraft (the warbirds, the aerobatic planes, etc.), it might have been nice to show just what the workaday planes give to the community (or not); and, unfortunately, all those nice shiny bizjets probably only reinforce the "GA as rich-guys toys for the boys" image in many viewers' minds, no matter how aerodynamically and aesthetically pleasing they might be to you and me.

And as for being able to "communicate [our] passion for aviation", I think it certainly communicates the fact that many of us are passionate about flying and all that goes with it (including local airports), but I don't think it instills or inspires that passion in most people who don't already feel that way. And perhaps it's not meant to — it's certainly a difficult thing to convincingly show rather than tell. While I mostly liked the people the movie used to convey the passion, GA now has such an image problem that showing presumably-rich actors standing in front of expensive shiny (noisy) machines probably isn't going to convince anyone not already convinced; and the use of so many older people as interviewees really hinted at one of the main problems GA faces. In some ways the movie felt more like an unwitting elegy for a GA era than a look forward through the past.

Having said all that, definitely see it if you get a chance. It's good local history, and the pure flying documentary bits were beautifully shot, addictive, and deeply affecting. Almost makes me want to take up aerobatics again….


Anonymous said...

Hamish-- I left this comment on John's blog today, too:

John: today (July 10, 2007)I was flying on an airliner from ATL to PHL, and in the ATL lounge, they were showing CNN on the TV monitors. There was some news from the West Coast: it was reported that the OAK airport was evacuated temporarily today after someone jumped the security lines. I can't find anything about this on any of the major media. It's almost as if the event never happened. Any news out there?

Hamish said...

Funny you should ask... :-). Yes, it was a fairly minor security breach (see e.g. here), but being at one of Southwest's left coast hubs, it had all sorts of knock-on effects. I heard about it as I was driving past the airport on my way south to lunch in Silicon Valley…